During a Tuesday appearance on Good Morning Britain to promote his new essay collection, Yearbook, Seth Rogen was asked about how he views some of the more controversial or offensive jokes in his earlier movies.
“There are certain jokes that for sure have not aged well, but I think that’s the nature of comedy,” the comedian said. “I think conceptually those movies are sound and I think there’s a reason they’ve lasted as far as people still watching and enjoying them today. Jokes are not things that necessarily are built to last.”
A white male comedian speaking thoughtfully and non-defensively about legitimate criticism of his past work? Yes, the bar is about 100 meters below-ground, but it’s still refreshing. Rogen went on to explain that he didn’t really understand many of his fellow comedians’ blaming the mythological “cancel culture” when they receive criticism for past jokes that were bigoted or insensitive.
“To me when I see comedians complaining about this kind of thing, I don’t understand what they’re complaining about. If you’ve made a joke that’s aged terribly, accept it. And if you don’t think it’s aged terribly, then say that.”
“To me, it’s not worth complaining about to the degree I see other comedians complaining about,” Rogen added.
In a recent interview with The Sunday Times, Rogen expressed his regrets over a 2014 joke he made about his long-time friend and collaborator James Franco DM-ing a 17-year-old on Instagram. Franco, who in the years since has been accused of sexual misconduct by numerous women, recently settled a lawsuit filed against him by two of his former students accusing him of sexual harassment and exploitation.
“I do look back at a joke I made on ‘Saturday Night Live’ in 2014 and I very much regret making that joke,” said Rogen, when asked about the line. “It was a terrible joke, honestly.”
Rogen’s comments came just about a month after Charlyne Yi revealed that she’d tried to break her contract on the 2019 Franco-directed film The Disaster Artist after learning of the sexual assault allegations against Franco. Yi said that the film’s producers—including Rogen, who she named as an enabler—tried to bribe her to stay with a bigger role. In his Sunday Times interview, Rogen broke from his past statements and clearly stated that he does not plan to work with Franco again, but hedged a bit when asked about their personal relationship.
Although it’s certainly refreshing to see Rogen’s lack of defensiveness, retroactive apologies do far less than changed behavior.